The U.S. military is the nation’s single largest consumer of oil and wants to wean itself from petroleum. Because the U.S. military is an organization of action; it is using its buying power and authority to commercialize alternative and bio fuel technologies.
How serious is the U.S. Military about alternative fuel use? Well the U.S. Navy aims to get half of its energy from renewable sources by the year 2020. Earlier in 2012 the Pentagon invoked the Defense Production Act to solicit proposals to build at least one integrated bio refinery with $210 million in government funding.
It just so happens that the US currently is home to the world’s only commercial outdoor algal bio refinery. The project was funded by investors including Bill Gates and government cash and load guarantees. The bio refinery is located eighty miles west of El Paso Texas in the New Mexico desert and was developed by San Diego based company Sapphire. Currently the Defense Department is the largest client of Sapphire. “No question, the military has focused the company and given us a great challenge to meet,” says Sapphire executive Tim Zenk. Other companies such as Solayzme currently provide algae based biofuels to the U.S. military and airlines as jet fuel – Solajet.
The U.S. Defense Department is not just focusing on algae and biofuels. U.S. Marines currently use solar technologies to make bases in Afghanistan energy independent and impervious to enemy power disruptions. The U.S. Army is using renewable energy sources to make American homeland military bases less vulnerable to power grid disruptions. You can see the emerging theme here — get off the grid for security and defense reasons!
This is not anything new; the U.S. military-industrial complex has historically been an adopter of alternative sources of fuel. The U.S. Navy developed nuclear powered ships like the Nimitz. At the time the technology was too expensive to make it commercial, a similar issue faced by currently available bio fuels. However by the military simply trying the technology it made the path, for better or worse, for the American nuclear industry. The American military-industrial complex thinks the same can be done with bio and other alternative fuels.
Andrew Meggison was born in the state of Maine and educated in Massachusetts. Andrew earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Government and International Relations from Clark University and a Master’s Degree in Political Science from Northeastern University. Being an Eagle Scout, Andrew has a passion for all things environmental. In his free time Andrew enjoys writing, exploring the great outdoors, a good film, and a creative cocktail. You can follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewMeggison